Managed Services Accreditation, Part 2: Views From MSP Partners, MSPAlliance

When MSP Partners on March 31 announced plans for a managed services accreditation test, I offered some quick perspectives but also raised five follow-up questions. Seeking answers, I contacted MSP Partners and the MSPAlliance -- which already offers a managed services accreditation. Here are some perspectives on key questions I had raised.

1. What exactly is MSP Partners' accreditation effort, and who does it serve?

Answer: It's  called "MSP Pro... powered by CompTIA." According to MSP Partners' Jim Hamilton, the organization does not intend to compete head-on with anyone in the managed services accreditation market. Instead, it sounds to me like MSP Partners' accreditation is a first-step effort (like earning a bachelor's degree) while the MSPAlliance's on-site audit and accreditation effort is far more advanced (like earning a graduate degree). Hamilton says MSP Partners has no plans to offer in-depth on-site audits.

Instead, Hamilton believes many MSPs want to show their customers that they've completed basic training and education in the MSP space. Hence, MSP Partners' new accreditation.

2. What roles do CompTIA and IPED play in MSP Partners' accreditation?

Answer: CompTIA is the Computing Technology Industry Association, one of the largest channel-focused IT associations in the world. IPED (Institute for Partner Education and Development) is a research and education organization from Everything Channel (publisher of ChannelWeb and CRN).

Previously, CompTIA and Everything Channel (formerly CMP's channel business unit) had a falling out and rarely worked with one another for more than a decade. Apparently, mutual opportunities in the managed services market has helped to end the cold war between CompTIA and Everything Channel/IPED.

Here's how MSP Partners, CompTIA and IPED are sorting out their responsibilities:

  • MSP Partners, CompTIA, IPED and a group of MSPs will collaborate on the exam development.
  • CompTIA and MSP Partners will manage online exam delivery through CompTIA testing partners.
Yes, several MSPs and industry pundits are asisting the effort. According to Hamilton they include:
3. What are CompTIA's own future goals for MSP accreditation?

Answer: Although CompTIA has not announced a higher-end MSP accreditation program, it's safe to assume such a plan (including on-site MSP audits) is in the works. The effort will likely involve some sort of Managed Services Trustmark accreditation. CompTIA already offers a Security Trustmark accreditation.

And in the MSP Partners press release, CompTIA's Biddle offered the following clues about his association's next move:
"This is an important first step as we strive to expand on the concept of the CompTIA Security Trustmark into the Managed Services arena.”
4. How did the MSPAlliance react to MSP Partners' accreditation plans?

Answer: The MSPAlliance (MSPA) has an established, intensive accreditation program for its 8,000 or so association members. And generally speaking, the MSPA fiercely protects its work in the managed services market.

I traded email with MSPA President Charles Weaver shortly before the official MSP Partners press release hit the newswires on March 31. Here were Weaver's thoughts at the time.
"Joe - without knowing what their "test" is going to involve it is difficult to discuss this latest endeavor by MSPP [MSP Partners]. However, a concern that was expressed by our board and committee members is the potential dilution of the term "accreditation". MSPs worked diligently for nearly 2 years creating a standard that would mean something for their industry. We would hope that MSPP would be considerate of the hard work performed by these MSPs. Any dilution of the standard or the term "accreditation" would only serve to harm this industry.
This is precisely why the MSPs have developed a "certification" for individuals so that there would not be any risk of confusion between the individual certification and the Managed Services Accreditation Program exam.
In closing, the MSPAlliance applauds the efforts of any organization that works to promote honesty, integrity, and meaningful standards in the managed services industry.
Now, my perspective: I could be way off the mark, but Weaver's decision to use the word "dilution" twice in his email represents legal innuendo to me. Legally, has MSP Partners done anything wrong? I think not. Is there room for multiple managed services accreditations in the market? I think so. But remember: I'm just a blogger.

5. So, what does all of this accreditation talk ultimately mean for established and aspiring MSPs?

Answer: Ultimately, I believe customer choice is a good thing. Once the MSP Partners accreditation test debuts, managed service providers will be able to choose between that base test and the MSPAlliance's more intensive accreditation program.

But I don't believe the accreditation debate will end there. At some point, I suspect CompTIA will launch its own, in-depth MSP accreditation program to rival MSP Alliance at the high-end of the market.

Disclosure: MSPmentor develops custom media for CompTIA from time to time. But we are not associated with the association's certification or accreditation programs.

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